North By East, August 2009
The Doryman, lobstermen, Craigslist and more
RETURN OF THE DORYMAN
Once again, a Portland schooner is fishing the Gulf of Maine.
Anyone who thinks commercial fishing should be closer to The Perfect Storm than Captains Courageous hasn’t met Roger Woodman. The fifty-five-year-old Portlander made his living managing draggers like the Andrea Gail (the doomed boat featured in Sebastian Junger’s superb book), but after selling his fishing ships through the federal buyback program he’s returned to fishing the Grand Banks on an admittedly outdated craft — a wooden schooner.
Last year Woodman made several experimental trips where he anchored his fifty-six-foot ship, Alert (formerly the Northeast Harbor-based yacht Tall Cotton), about forty miles from Portland and set out his hand lines. After leaving about 250 hooks (his permit limits the number of hooks he can have and requires that he use hand-gear only) for between two and eight hours, he hauled in dozens of cod, haddock, and other groundfish. He says he has upgraded his gear this year to improve his catch and plans to sell the fish weekly between now and October at the Portland Fish Exchange, which he helped establish in 1986. “I’m using modern gear in a low-tech, low-overhead situation,” he explains. “I’m only catching in the hundreds of pounds per trip, but I do see the potential there. There are fish, and I’m looking forward to increasing that [catch] substantially this year, because it’s a learning curve like anything else.”
Woodman admits that his wind-powered fishing venture has yet to turn a profit — he believes a permit that will allow him to use machinery to haul his lines is necessary in order for him to operate in the red — but says he enjoys his time at sea. He maintains that his hand-caught fish also taste
better than those crushed under thousands of pounds of other dead fish in the nets and holds of larger fishing vessels. “I learned a lot last fall, and it’s fun to do,” he remarks. “The thinking is that if we were ever to do
[sailing-fishing] where it’s economically viable, you’ve got a little cachet. I did get remarks from people on the quality of the fish — it was just out of this world.”
Perhaps Captain Disko Troop and the crew aboard We’re Here had it right all along.
A pesky pest eats up Maine yards.
The signs are obvious: “It looks like a bad golfer has gone through your yard overnight — there are divots everywhere,” says James Dill, the pest management specialist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
Another ominous sign for lawn lovers according to Dill: a lot of crows in the yard.
These symbols signify the presence of white grubs, the C-shaped, whitish larvae that morph into Japanese beetles, English chafers, June bugs, and other garden pests. The cycle of the grub is this: The adults emerge in late spring. They lay eggs around mid-summer. The eggs hatch and feed on the roots of the grass until the first frost. (In turn, they are also fed upon by Pepe Le Pew and his feathered friends.) Come spring, the grass, whose roots were demolished last summer, can’t soak up water or nutrients it needs in order to greenify or grow.
“Last year was the first time we really saw any problems,” says Dill. “Bangor was very badly hit, and Portland, though a little less so, ” with spotty cases along the coast.
Strangely, grubs are not everywhere, not even on individual lawns. “If your lawn has a sloping bank on it at all, that’s where the European chafers hit,” explains Dill. “I can’t figure out why they seem to be attracted to that type of a site. But the areas that were devastated last year had nice, big, sloping lawns. Right next door the lawn was flat and as green as can be.”
Dill attributes the recent onslaught of the grass-root eaters in Maine primarily to subdivisions: “With any development, often what [builders] will do is either bring top soil in from elsewhere or go to a turf farm out of state and bring strips of turf to roll out and have a ready-made lawn.” That might be convenient until spring rolls around and that sparkly green lawn is plagued with sad-looking brown patches.
August is the time to get the grubs, so to speak. The best way, other than pesticides (and we recommend that you resist the Caddyshack method of dynamite), is to use nematodes, small roundworms that enter the grubs through their mouth, reproduce, and kill them from within. “It’s a search and destroy mission,” says Dill simply.
THE HUB OF NEW ENGLAND
Two neighbors ponder potential geographic fame.
It is a pleasurable Maine pastime to banter back and forth about seemingly meaningless state trivia. How many
islands does Maine actually have? Which is better, Sunday River or Sugarloaf? Does Portland really have the most restaurants per capita in the country? The answers, in most cases, don’t have as much meaning as the act of questioning itself. Thus, most of these quibblings remain rhetorical.
Such was not the case for Paris residents Paul Thornfeldt and Richard Himmelstoss’ most recent debate. One day, the two men pondered the perplexing and unanswered (at least officially) question: Where is the exact center of Maine?
The casual contemplator may have settled a finger somewhere on square forty-two on the trusty Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer and called it a day. But Himmelstoss demanded exactness.
He enlisted the help of U.S. geologist Emily Himmelstoss. His daughter. A geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, she used sophisticated computer software to approximate the center of Maine. The nature of the neighbors’ query had quickly expanded to also include whether a spot in Maine could rightly be pinpointed as the epicenter of New England. It took Emily only a few minutes to determine.
“I sent an e-mail to my father,” says Emily. Somehow, the local newspaper got a copy of the message. “All of a sudden, I’m a geologist in the paper proclaiming the center point of New England.”
Himmelstoss identified the center of Maine as a spot on map 42 of the Delorme atlas, in section E1, at the precise coordinates of (-69.2385 and 45.3937). “It’s in a bog at the west end of Roaring Brook Pond,” says Emily. That’s T7 R9 NWP in Piscataquis County.
As for the center of New England itself, Himmelstoss felt reluctant to make a full disclosure. She’ll go so far as saying the center is in Norway, Maine, approximately 542 feet east of a spot on Shedd Road. The lack of specific coordinates comes courtesy of the landowner’s disdain for unwanted visitors.
“[This story] has turned into something much, much bigger than either of us had anticipated,” says Emily. “I did this for my dad on my own time. It’s not sanctioned by USGS.” In fact, Emily notes that many different approximations can be made depending on the data, namely the outline of Maine or New England that is used. (In Emily’s case, for example, she did not include any islands.)
Official or not, the results give residents of township T7 R9 NWP (if there are any two-legged ones) and Norway something to brag about. Not to mention two guys from Paris.
WORSE THAN CHINA?
Maine’s carbon emissions report card tells two tales.
Greenpeace, the environmental activist organization not known for its wall-flowerish ways, recently gave Maine a report card. (It also scored the entire U.S., but we’ll leave the Obama administration to duke out the results for the nation.) The Greenpeace test measured the level of carbon emissions (calculated by fossil-fuel use) from 1960 to 2005.
“In terms of total emissions, Maine did pretty well compared to the other U.S. States,” says David Pomerantz, the Greenpeace organizer for Maine. “Maine was forty-third out of fifty.” We emitted 849 million tons of CO2 (that’s carbon dioxide). Maine placed a less stellar thirtieth in the country in terms of carbon emissions per person.
But the news turns grim if you take a global perspective — and Greenpeace always takes a global perspective. In Maine, over the nearly fifty years in the study, we produced more carbon emissions per person (666 metric tons) than did the residents of Canada, Russia, Germany, the UK, Australia, and just about every other
country in the world. Maine’s per capita carbon tally was ten times that of China.
One positive spin on the report: Our carbon emissions as a state are “more easily solvable.” That’s because most of Maine’s carbon emissions come from “transportation and buildings.” Says Pomerantz: “83 percent of the state’s energy comes from petroleum [as opposed to coal or natural gas] — that’s very high.”
Michael Crocker, a Greenpeace spokesperson who grew up in Brunswick, explains that the cold weather has a lot to do with Maine’s elevated use of petroleum. “Winter heating creates a lot of fuel consumption,” he says. Maine houses also tend to be older and less efficient than many of our northerly neighbors. “It is no one’s fault, but it’s cold here,” says Crocker.
Jim Brooks, the director of the bureau of air quality at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, says he won’t dispute the report: “If you look back in history,” says Brooks, “Maine has been heavily reliant on fossil fuels for its economy, its industry, and our homes. The good news is we’ve recognized it, and the legislature’s recognized it, and we have plans to move forward to try to reduce this carbon footprint.”
In short, if we all weatherized our homes and traded our Pontiacs for Priuses, we’d be doing the planet a big favor.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ?
Maine’s suburban surge in beekeeping.
You’ve got the vegetable garden. You’ve got the flowers. Now all you need is good weather — and lots of pollinating bees.
The surge in hobbyist beekeepers is no surprise to Tony Jadczak, the Maine State Bee Inspector, who is, well, busy as a bee. “The colony collapse disorder that has devastated hives across the country drew a lot of attention,” explains Jadczak. “That, coupled with the dismal economy, and suddenly we have a bit of a swarm to keep bees.”
Sally Greene, the former president of the Maine Association of Beekeepers concurs: “The increase has been definitely in the hobby end. At the Cumberland County [chapter], five years ago we had an active membership of about thirty people. Now it is more like over one hundred.”
Hobbyists pursue beekeeping as a labor of love, but the real money is in commercial beekeeping. Lincoln Sennett is the owner of Swan’s Honey of Albion, one of a small number of commercial bee companies in the state. Pollination is essential to about ninety crops, including Maine’s wild blueberries and apples. Twenty-five years ago, ten thousand hives were brought into the state to pollinate blueberries. This year, Jadczak says there will be seventy thousand.
For Sennett, that’s good news. He sells roughly six varieties of packaged honey each year — orange blossom, cranberry, blueberry, raspberry, buckwheat, and wild flower. But the average hobbyist beekeeper needs to proceed with caution. Creating honey from a hive or two does not a business plan make. “In terms of honey production, it doesn’t make economic sense,” says Sennett. “From an educational standpoint, [keeping bees] is very interesting.”
Even if the person has the right intentions, beekeeping is a difficult hobby. “Some folks will stick with it,” says Jadczak, “but the vast majority of folks will move on. It’s tough to keep bees in Maine.” He has a one-word answer for why that’s the case.
“The Lawns of Lobstermen”
Because they cannot live without the sea
they bring it home with them. It starts with boats:
skiffs, punts or dinghies . . . the outboard workboat, all
flat-bottomed or leaning, keeled to one side . . .
always little boats in the green harbors
of their lawns. And stacks of lobster traps: three, four, five
high, with buoys and potwarp stored inside.
Weeds grow around the traps: wildflowers less pungent
than the clinging seaweeds, dry and brittle now, pulled
from the deep. More buoys lay scattered
about, beyond repair or fresh-painted
eyed by tourists on their way to the old inn
with the pint-sized lighthouse on its lawn.
Gulls land in these backyard backwaters, pecking
at scraps of bait and clumps of mussels
slow-roasted by sun. Mooring anchors sit,
old and new, hauled for good or ready to set:
a fifty-five gallon drum full of cement,
an old V-8 engine, a block of granite.
Rust-red chains, roughly coiled or snaking
away, sink into uncut grass and shadows
awaiting the young son and his mower.
His father says, “I hit that cussed thing, too.”
Call them what you want, those fishermen’s lawns:
shrines, workshops, junkyards . . . eyesores or delights.
Children play while mothers in flannel sip coffee
in the sun. An old oar, its mate missing,
leans against the stoop, rowing the house to sea.
FOUND ON CRAIGSLIST
My wife wanted a new toilet, so I changed it out. It was working fine. So if for some reason you need a toilet for a camp, planter, lawn ornament (laugh: I saw one, only in Maine) you can have it. It is an Eljer. Not the long oval bowl, but the shorter round bowl. Bisque in color. Kennebunk.